Mangalorean Recipes

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SURSUM CORDA!

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sursum‘Tomorrow is going to be a great day for me’ thought Felicio, on the eve of what he considered would be a great milestone. Perhaps it would be a very nervous and tense moment too, for the first time in his life, he thought. Late that evening Felicio was returning home after the final rehearsal in the village chapel. He was hoping that all would go well the next day. He was glad that his friend, Joao-Francis, was going to assist him.

It was dusk now and Felicio’s mother was waiting for his return home. She was lighting the kerosene chimney lamp in the ‘sala’ as he entered the house. “How did the rehearsal go, Felicio?”, his mother asked. “Very well,” Felicio replied, “fortunately I won’t be serving alone. Joao-Francis will be my partner in serving Mass for the first time. Mother, I'm going to be an altar boy - and I'm little nervous and happy too.” “That’s good” his mother said. “Don’t worry,” she continued, “everything will go well; now let’s recite the Angelus”. She finished lighting the oil lamp and placed the candles on the ‘altar’, high on the wall into a niche where his hands could barely reach.

As the evening prayers ended, Felicio felt comfortable with the thought that he will have some company the next day in serving Mass. Hoping that everything would go well, and keeping his fingers crossed, he said a silent prayer for a successful outcome. Sometime during the next two or three days, he reminded himself, he must let his father, who worked in Bombaim, know about this auspicious event. Mother will take care of that for certain, he thought.

That evening, thoughts raced through Felicio’s mind. "Will there be lots of people in the chapel the next day, Felicio wondered. Will everything go smoothly? I’ve waited and rehearsed for this great moment for so long! I hope everything will turn out well", he prayed.

Proceeding to his study table, Felicio sat on the chair. He retrieved the small prayer book from the top of the bookshelf. It had been the centre of his attention the entire week. He had been trying hard to memorize all his responses.

Felicio reached for the knurled wheel of the chimney lamp and carefully turned up the wick to brighten up the room for yet one more reading. He was concerned about memorising and delivering the right corresponding responses. Opening the slim booklet ‘Modo de Ajudar à Missa em Latim’, he read out loud his responses to what the priest’s opening line would be the next morning, “Introibo altare Dei”. He followed this with ‘Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam’, ‘Sursum corda...Habemus ad Dominum’, ‘Grátias agámus Dómino Deo nostro’… Digno et justum estSed libera nos a malo’...‘Et clamor meus ad te veniat’, and the most unforgettable of them all (Dominus vobiscum)…“Et cum spiritu tuo”, and so on. In a short time he had finished the practice for the final day.

Rising early the next morning, Felicio wore his favourite blue shirt that his mother had stitched specially for the occasion while the ‘vaddtea angar’ (Konkani, literal meaning: for the growing body) short trousers, tailored the previous year, still fitted well. Felicio’s mother accompanied him to the chapel. He had to report to the sacristan at least twenty minutes prior to the Mass for some important instructions from the sacristan.

“Good morning, Father,” said Joao-Francis and Felicio in unison to the chaplain, as they rose from the bench when he entered the sacristy. “Good morning to you, too. Are you boys all set? We’ll begin in a short while”, said the priest as he began donning the vestments. “We are right on time.”

Felicio was happy that overall everything was going well so far. And soon they accompanied the priest walking gently to the main altar of the chapel from the sacristy. The bells rang and the Latin Mass was about to begin. The last time Felicio had walked the same way was a year ago when he had received his First Holy Communion.

‘In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti’. ‘Introibo altare Dei’ the priest’s voice echoed through the chapel. And Felicio heard his own voice loud and clear for he first time in the stillness with his very first response: ‘Ad Deum laetificat juventutem meam’. He had no trouble delivering the rest of the responses just like his mother had encouraged and predicted. She had been very supportive as usual. Perhaps she must have been praying for him right at that moment.

He had managed to pour just the right amount of wine into the chalice, rang the bell at the precise time for the ‘Sanctus’ and successfully carried the missal along with the stand from one side of the altar to the other. He had also steadily poured water over the priest’s fingers as he washed them and there had been no sound of any cruets clashing together. His partner and himself had also bowed and genuflected in tandem, as they alternatively stood and knelt on the polished white marble floor. Felicio’s biggest fear was not to trip while climbing or getting down the steps to the altar. He was grateful that his partner has trained him well and that Padre Capelão had been very kind an understanding.

Felicio’s great moment was yet to come and that would be when people would line up to receive Holy Communion. He accompanied the priest as he proceeded to the front pews as the folks knelt to receive. Just then Felicio noticed his mother standing in the line. Soon she would be kneeling for her turn.

It was a moment of great pride and joy as he held the communion serving paten under his mother’s chin. Felicio was happy that he had taken part in serving his mother. His mother’s wish was granted that her son had learned to serve Mass. He had now officially become an ‘ajudante’. With a quick glance he was surprised to see his relatives and neighbours in the queue. There were hints of sustained smiles. Perhaps, Felicio thought, his mother must have requested them to attend the Mass in order to give ‘the new altar boy in a blue shirt’ – a big surprise.

After the Mass, they all walked home together. It had been the beginning of a great day indeed for Felicio and for all the members of his family. His mother had prepared a special lunch as well.

The Latin Mass continued for another few more years. It was then replaced by a New Order of the Mass when the priest faced the people. In a way, it must have been good so that the priest could constantly keep an eye on his flock during the service, as opposed to the days of the Latin Mass when Padre Capelão along with his flock, the sacristan, the altar boys and the singers in the choir, had all stood facing in one direction – towards the altar – lifting up their hearts.

Sursum corda! Lift up your hearts!
Tony Felix Fernandes
Guirim, Cumbiem Morod,
Bardez, Goa, India.

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